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Unusual Sex Fetishes in The Other Side of Desire; now in paperback

from – In The Other Side of Desire, Daniel Bergner hones in on the experiences of four paraphiliacs — people whose sexual wants fall outside the range of “normal.”

Through engrossing profiles of a man with a foot fetish, a woman who runs an S&M dungeon, a man who desires amputees and a convicted child molester, Bergner raises the question, “How do we come to have the particular desires that drive us, how do we become who we are sexually, whether our lusts are common or improbable?”

Bergner, a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, is empathetic; he doesn’t treat his subjects as sideshow freaks. Still, he includes plenty of lurid details on the way people indulge their fetishes, and no matter how nonjudgmental Bergner tries to be, most readers will find some of this material disturbing.

It’s easy to sympathize with Jacob, the foot fetishist whose harmless desires form a burden he contends with daily. But no matter how Roy, the child molester, berates himself, it is difficult to separate the man from his crime.

from – A foot fetishist, a female sadist, a child molester and an amputee “devotee” — these are the protagonists of Daniel Bergner’s new book The Other Side of Desire, an exploration into various atypical forms of “lust and longing.” In what could have been the worst kind of leering anthropology, Bergner instead finds compassion, sympathy and even commonality. He calls the stories in the book “autobiographical,” and the book makes clear that its subjects will provide all of us with convex mirrors reflecting our own sexual desires and practices.

Even amid the sometimes-destructive impact of what sexologists call “paraphilias” — sexual “disorders” that most of society (and this interviewer too, accidentally) often call deviant — Bergner also envies the intensity of feeling that accompanies them.

Bergner’s book is an exploration of the people, stories and science behind paraphilias. It raises the questions of where our desires come from and what to do with them once they’re there, but Bergner (and the scientists he cites) know that there are no easy answers. An adapted excerpt from his book entitled “What Do Women Want?” appeared recently as a cover story for the New York Times Magazine, but, like The Other Side of Desire as a whole, it’s more concerned with exploring our questions about sexuality than with resolving them. Anecdote, authorial intuition and scientific research all tell us that sex might just be as big a mystery as we always thought it was.

[HarperCollins publishers]


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